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Hello everyone. I'm a guitarist of 11 years who had picked up the piano in September while preparing to go to my uni's music program after years of thinking i could never do it . I only had to meet a certain level for the piano, but found I enjoyed it so much that i continued going .

I'm coming along very well , i have been reading through Mayla and Bernhard's posts on piano street and now I'm discovering this place. Beyond the musical learning that I' doing however, I have some sticking points I am curious about which are mostly mental things that i was hoping someone would have some knowledge towards.


1) I started off musically as a rock guitarist, and learned music via tab and my ear. I also learned a lot of theory and applied it to the guitar. I'm now stuck in a strange place, where i understand musically what is going on the piano, but my reading skills are behind.

More specifically I have trouble visualizing sheet music as piano keys. With guitar I found it very helpful to visualize the fretboard and that has got me a long way. I don't know if its possible but ideally I would like to get to a piano proficiency where I can read music and imagine it as the keys on the piano. I find it easy to figure out music when I know the keys to press and can think ofit that way .
I have seen videos using synthesia that show a falling keyboard that is similar to how I "think" about music, but I can't seem to see sheet music and then see that kind of translation. Is there any suggestions to bridge that gap ?

2) in all my music experiences, I have found that the excited nature of performing for others always made me play much better.. when I am at home I often catch myself finding the music boring. I can't seem to sink into the epxerience like I can when playing live or listening to music.
Does anyone have any suggestions to kind of get into that focused zone when practicing alone? I would like to be able to sit at the piano and just perform liek I have seen many performers(especially on youtube) do while at home. I think that would allow practice to be much more rewarding. I find it very hard to just sit with the music when I am by myself. constant self-criticism and overthinking that goes out the window in public performance

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Hi ttrp,

You are on the right track, here. Like you, I came to the piano after already having developed a bit of proficiency on other instruments (a smattering of violin, some recorder and bagpipes and a tiny bit of guitar, but mostly brass), all of which I played mostly by ear. I discovered not long after seriously starting to play the piano that it is *very* important, indeed, to develop the "picture-key" connection. Where by "picture", I mean the note on the page. Someone suggested I should put a chart above the keys of my piano with a visual representation of the note on the staff corresponding to each key, and so that's what I did. More than anything else, it is helping me learn to read better.

As for "simulating" the excitement of performance: record yourself? There are many places on here where you can post your recordings and have them heard and commented upon, should you so choose.


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Welcome to the forum, ttrp! smile I don't have an answer to your first question, other than to say that sight reading *does* eventually become easier, even second nature. As for the second question, I like Saranoya's idea about recording yourself to recapture the energy of a live performance. Another thing I do (to help me get over performance anxiety) is to imagine vividly that I'm playing in front of an audience. Even if the living room is actually empty, pretending that I'm playing for a crowd is usually enough to get me flustered and make mistakes, ha!

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Welcome to PW ttrp.

I also played classical guitar (tho not very well) before piano, but I played guitar from traditional sheet music (not tab, although I used tab sometimes).

Anyway, I don't know if this will help you, but if you turn piano music sideways, the left hand is on the left and the right hand is on the right, and middle C (often played with the RH thumb) is in the middle.

This doesn't help with reading, I don't think, because you can't read out to each side, you have to read left to right. But maybe that's one way you can try to get more comfortable with the score. Another thing that might help is playing a lot from the score, but playing one hand at a time, so that you really train your eyes and ears to associate the notes on the page with the notes under your fingers and the sounds they make. And try to do this with as much unfamiliar sheet music as possible. A collection of every easy sight reading pieces, like A Line A Day, level 1 might be good. (pick pieces way below your level)

I think you might want to assume that the score is an abstract representation, in many ways it has to be in order to capture all the information. Because it's not just info about where you put your fingers, but for how long and so on. I think if you can get comfortable with that, you will find a lot more music is accessible to you than if you need to rely on synthesia or something.

As far as practicing goes.... you might need to develop a different kind of mental discipline. Practicing is work. Sometimes it's divine, but most of the time it's work, and often hard work. Actually, if it's never hard, that probably means you're not challenging yourself, and if you're not challenging yourself, you're not likely to improve.

So practicing is not going to have the same emotional reward that performing a polished piece of music does. But that doesn't mean you can't learn to enjoy it. After all, I think people who don't enjoy practicing are much less likely to stick with the instrument, and much less likely to progress if they do.

One way to make practice more enjoyable is to accept that you will not sound fabulous all the time, after all, you're practicing something new. So learn to stop the self-criticism and overthinking. If you can teach yourself to recognize small improvements in practice, you will start to enjoy the process more even before you get to the goal (the piece is performance-ready). So if you find yourself thinking "well, that sounds horrible" or "gee, I suck at this technique" stop and think "well, yeah because I'm just learning it" and let go of the critical feelings. Then if you break down something you're working (which you will if you've been reading Piano Street) and you play some small segment 7 times without making a mistake, really praise yourself and acknowledge that this tiny step is taking you towards your goal. If you can find joy in that process, you will also find success at the keyboard.

Lately I've found myself telling people to read The Inner Game of Music, because that is something that really helped me change my "inner game" (the mental talk) while practicing and made a huge difference in how I concentrate. So you might consider reading that. Actually, if you are so inclined, here are the three books I always recommend, because together they really made a huge difference in my piano pursuits.

The Inner Game of Music (by Barry Green and the Inner Game of Tennis guy)

A Soprano On Her Head (by Eloise Ristad)

The Art of Practicing (by Madeline Bruser)

These books are all available on Kindle now as well, I might re-purchase them so I can read them again! smile

Last edited by ShiroKuro; 05/04/14 05:29 PM. Reason: add links to books

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Hi Ttrp welcome!

I agree with Saranoya and MonicaK about how to simulate having an audience - pushing the recording button always seems to trigger that extra rush of adrenaline for me (and for numerous others - we even have the "Order of the Red Dot" for those who brave the experience and record for our quarterly e-citals!)

As for creating a link between the keyboard and the notes on the page, one of our members, Brian Lucas, is a teacher who has a very interesting system for improving your reading skills. You could look at the links in his signature line to check out his website.

An important thing for your reading is to do a lot of it, and don't worry about playing music that is actually below your playing skills level to practice your reading.
It is like most things, the more you do it, the better you get.


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Originally Posted by ttrp
I have seen videos using synthesia that show a falling keyboard that is similar to how I "think" about music, but I can't seem to see sheet music and then see that kind of translation. Is there any suggestions to bridge that gap ?


It comes with time (and of course practice wink ) so just be patient with this one, with both sight-reading through-composed music and/or lead sheets.


Originally Posted by ttrp
2) in all my music experiences, I have found that the excited nature of performing for others always made me play much better.. when I am at home I often catch myself finding the music boring. I can't seem to sink into the epxerience like I can when playing live or listening to music.
Does anyone have any suggestions to kind of get into that focused zone when practicing alone? I would like to be able to sit at the piano and just perform liek I have seen many performers(especially on youtube) do while at home. I think that would allow practice to be much more rewarding. I find it very hard to just sit with the music when I am by myself. constant self-criticism and overthinking that goes out the window in public performance


I feel the same way, but you should already know not to confuse playing with practicing. Playing is fun. Practicing is working with specific direction towards specific goals (this, of course, can also be fun and enjoyable). As far as motivating yourself to practice, set up performance opportunities for yourself. For me for example, I like to play and participate in various group classes/settings. This obviously provides me with material and direction in my practicing. It would take a great deal of self-discipline to overcome this deficit if you didn't have a teacher and/or group leading you in this regard (and/or you could simply pick things that you like and are motivated by to play and learn).

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You'll have to decide how much time and effort you want to spend on learning to read music. For some people that single task can become a little monster. I suggest that you at least bite the bullet and learn to read the treble clef so you can use lead sheets. This might involve using flash cards, apps, practicing every day on very simple music. Boring? Yes, for most musicians with other experience, very boring. It may not even feel like making music, but 10 or 15 minutes a day of boring will help get a person to where they want to go.

Some may only learn enough sight reading to play from lead sheets, improvise off the chord letters, and that's it. For a rock musician, that may be plenty, and might be all the sight reading he/she has the stomach to learn.

If a person wants to get to intermediate and above classical repertoire, a decent level of sight reading of the entire range (or a fantastic memory) are going to be the road in. Not everyone takes this road, but understand there are few alternatives for those asking for advice. Getting to this higher level of fluency typical takes an average person a year or two (or three) of committed practice on the skill of sight reading. For slow learners it may be longer.

High aptitude sight readers, the fast learners, tend not to ask for advice. For them, the skill comes like a gift from the sky, with far less time and effort. Many in the fast group, wonder what all the fuss is about. They have no idea how much some others struggle with what comes so relatively easily to them. No, they weren't born with the ability, but they get to the same place in two or three months that others typically take a year or more to get to, using the same learning materials, the same teaching methods.

By the way, I suggest that beginners go easy on the Internet time. A little research can go a long way. Balance Internet time against actual practice time. If in doubt spend more time on the bench on basic skills such as learning to sight read.

As others have suggested, recording, participating in the various forum events such as the quarterly recital and the monthly piano bar can give a person some focus. A few play along to recordings.

If a person knows other local musicians, that is another place to go. It doesn't take that much piano skill for an experienced musician with a decent ear to learn enough keyboard to be able to play along with chords, improvise and vamp while others or singers carry the melody line.

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Concerning question 1, I used to visualize notes as trombone positions and overtones. I had a clear mental picture of this. As I moved to piano, it switched, and I visualize chords or note relationships with a visual of the keyboard in my mind. This will happen for you over time.

I have a similar visualization between the notes on the page, and the keys, but this hasn't helped me much with sight-reading. There's a lot of other stuff going on there.

Concerning question 2, for getting into the focused zone, all I have to do is think about how good it will sound when I'm performing. The is especially true if I have a performance coming up, or I will be playing in front of someone soon.

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This is a reference to a older technique book. The book cited below states that visualizing, as you mentioned, and complete memorization of a score before you play/practice is the systematic way of learning to sight read.
Easier scores are in fact easier to sight read because you know the score.(less to know)
The technical proficiency of more difficult scores follows with practice whether you do it from "muscle memory or by sight reading ."
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thanks everyone for the replies! I'll definitely check out these books and also try out the suggestions here. My reading is definitely my weak point. I have trouble connecting the dots with the intended musical output. I find I have to decode into something that makes sense for me. long arpeggio sequences, or chord progessions etc are not immediately obvious for example, though if I can work thorugh it and realize its "2 a minor arpeggio in the left hand" I can understand it. thats what I mean when I find it easy to observe the synthesia program. I can see/hear a musical phrase as its parts together and not spending too much energy trying to see all those little parts and connecting them. Does that make sense?


hopefully with some of the skills I acquire I can make that happen in my mind.


Regarding te performance issues, how should I practice the little things so that they eventually turn into a desired result when connected? I find that I am often too self-conscious when playing,I want to get to a level that I can get the biggere picture sound I want with more freedom.. playing the music, not the notes, does that make sense ?

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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Concerning question 1, I used to visualize notes as trombone positions and overtones. I had a clear mental picture of this. As I moved to piano, it switched, and I visualize chords or note relationships with a visual of the keyboard in my mind. This will happen for you over time.


The same thing happened to me, and the interesting thing is that I then found I could play by ear on trombone, something i had long thought was beyond me.


gotta go practice

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